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December 17, 2021

My Irish Winter Solstice Vigil

A lot of folk have asked me about a practice I engage with every December, my Winter Solstice vigil each year here in County Waterford, Ireland. So, I decided to outline what it is, why I do it, and if it’s something you should be doing as part of an Irish Pagan practice.

What is the Winter Solstice?

This is the solstice that marks the onset of winter, at the time of the shortest day, about 22 December in the northern hemisphere and 21 June in the southern hemisphere. Astronomically speaking, the solstice in December is when the sun reaches its minimum declination.

My Vigil

I’ve been holding winter solstice vigil for 25 years at this point, which is where I choose to stay awake while keeping a consistent flame lit all through the darkest night, and greet/welcome the dawn on the shortest day, the Solstice.

The exact specifics of all this are changeable every single year, as well as things like earliest sunrise and sunset being thrown into the mix, and it can all get very confusing.

So, this is how I figure it each year.

Winter Solstice Vigil Example for December 2021

Solstice in Ireland this year (the actual turning point towards longer light hours) is the afternoon of Tuesday 21st Dec. It varies each year. 

This means I will be doing my annual vigil the night before this, on Monday 20th, through to dawn on 21st. This is what I view as the longest night.

The Necessary Warnings

Please note, this is just when/how I do it, and that the reason I do it is a specific contractual agreement with the sovereignty spirit of this island that I made in my teens. Nobody else I knew was doing this in 1996! 

There is NO onus or obligation on anyone else to do a vigil the same as me, or to do it at all.

Years ago, a friend of mine (GRMA Victoria!) observed that folk seemed to be competing in some sort of ‘ordeal olympics’ to do the same things that I was contracted and required to do for the Gods, Guides, and Guardians of this island. 

I am not your benchmark.

Nobody expects you to do as I do. Please do not do as I do, unless you’ve got the self care stuff really and truly dialled in, as not taking care of all that first and foremost, before doing my ‘ordeals’ have made me sick. 🤷‍♀️

If You Want to Do a Winter Solstice Vigil

But, a lot of folk have for whatever reason decided that this particular thing is a thing they should be or want to be doing as well. Fair enough. It is a powerful ritual act. This is your spirituality. You have to walk your own path.

If you do decide to hold a vigil for solstice, please make some very conscious and considered choices about what it means to you, and why you’re deciding to do it.

Also about how you’re going to spend that time. (For some examples, but this is not an exhaustive list: divination, studying, journeying, fire scrying, journalling, meditating, sacred movement, being in community, ancestor work, goal setting and planning… these are all good choices!)

Extra Resources

I hope this has been useful, and you mind yourselves properly through this whole season.

Le Grá,


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About the Author

Irish Author, Educator, and Guide to Ireland. Co-Founder of the Irish Pagan School, Eel & Otter Press, and Pagan Life Rites (Ireland).

Lora O'Brien

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  • I often wondered if there was something else I could or should be doing on the longest night of the year. Also during the June Solstice. Thanks. Studying, meditating etc. are things that I can do throughout the night. There is a lot I need to do and learn.

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